DETROIT — Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, riding high as the Republican Party sank into a historic internal crisis over Donald Trump’s candidacy, strode into the nation’s Rust Belt on Monday, pledging to push a “renaissance” of advanced manufacturing and sharply questioning Trump’s commitment to blue-collar workers.
In her first campaign event since Sunday’s debate, Clinton acknowledged the ugliness of the face-off with Trump, telling an enthusiastic crowd of 3,500 at Wayne State University: “Bet you haven’t seen anything like that before.” She derided Trump for continuing to dismiss his lewd comments about women that surfaced on a 2005 video as mere “locker-room talk,” saying that’s “really just a weak excuse.”
“Donald Trump spent his time attacking when he should have been apologizing,” Clinton said of a debate in which Trump brought up allegations of sexual conduct by President Bill Clinton, called Clinton the “Devil” and suggested he’d jail her if president.
But Clinton soon turned her attention to an issue that her campaign says could undermine Trump’s appeal to working-class voters here and in other states that have shed manufacturing jobs: reports that the real-estate developer used dumped Chinese steel for construction projects rather than acquiring it from companies in the struggling U.S. Rust Belt.
“China has been dumping cheap steel into our markets for too long,” Clinton said. “When people like Donald Trump buy it, it kills good jobs. … How does Trump look these workers in the eye? How does he brag about big, tall buildings when he’s putting American workers out of work?”
During the half-hour rally, Clinton also pledged to foster the creation of advanced manufacturing jobs, including in “clean energy,” and to address “kitchen-table issues that keep families up at night.” She also reminded the crowd of her support of President Obama’s bailout of the auto industry.
Clinton was scheduled to appear in Columbus, Ohio, later Monday.
With many high-profile Republicans deserting Trump after Friday’s video surfaced, Clinton’s campaign sees a chance to shore up support among white working-class men — Trump’s strongest constituency. And that includes Republicans.
“We are getting more and more support, not just from Democrats, but from independents and Republicans,” Clinton claimed here.
Prior to last week, she faced an uphill climb. Polls have shown white voters without college degrees breaking heavily toward Trump – and harboring deep-seated animosity toward Clinton, the former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state.